SheridanHoops.com learned exclusively Monday that Howard recently expanded his list of preferred future destinations, adding the Clippers to a list that already included the Nets, the Mavericks and the Lakers.
“He’s been watching them a lot. He’s intrigued by the Clippers,” said the source, who is privy to the trade talks that have taken place between all of the aforementioned teams.
That source also said it now appears more likely that Howard will play out the season with the Magic, who improved to 9-3 Monday afternoon by defeating the New York Knicks 102-93 while making 17 3-pointers and getting just 8 points and 10 rebounds from Howard on what was a busy day in the NBA.
Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, already has been given permission to speak to the Nets, Mavericks and Lakers about possible trades. Magic general manager Otis Smith said Tuesday no permission has been granted in regards to trade talks with the Clippers.
But the source said the most likely scenario that would land Howard in Lob City would be an offseason sign-and-trade deal — something I discussed on the Petros and Money show in Los Angeles this afternoon. Click to listen.
Howard has soured on the idea of joining the Nets this season and missing the playoffs, especially since he could still join the Nets next summer prior to their move to Brooklyn and join a lineup that would include a re-signed Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks, Anthony Morrow and the Nets’ lottery pick, which will be a good pick in a well-stocked draft.
But that would require a commitment from Williams that he will stay with the Nets for the move to Brooklyn — and that is not a sure thing.
That’s because the Dallas Mavericks have a master plan of getting both Williams and Howard to join them in the offseason, when Mark Cuban will have more than $30 million in salary cap room if he is able to make a trade before then that would shed Shawn Marion and his $9 million salary off the Mavericks’ 2012-13 cap.
That would allow Howard and Williams to join with Dirk Nowitzki to form a superstar trio that would match or surpass what the Miami Heat already have on their roster.
A different league source said the Nets are now most concerned that Howard might get dealt to the Lakers before the trade deadline, which would impact their ability to convince Williams to remain with the franchise after he opts out of his contract following this season.
“The Nets are either going to end up with both of them or neither of them,” a third league source said, going so far as to predict that the Nets would trade Williams prior to the deadline if Howard gets dealt to a different team (Lakers, Mavericks, Clippers) that would be able to sign him for the long-term.
If Howard is traded to a team that would be willing to use him as a rental, the Nets would keep Williams and gamble that they would be able to entice Howard as a free agent. But to do that, the Nets would have to outcharm Cuban, who can offer Williams something the Nets cannot — a chance to play in his hometown.
Yet another option for Howard is remaining with the Magic for the 2012-13 season and collecting his $19.54 million salary, then making his big free agency move in the summer of 2013. But several sources cautioned that staying another year in Orlando is a long shot, given Howard’s hot-and-cold relationships with coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith.
The Magic have been doing everything within their powers to influence Howard to stay, and one source who believes there has been a recent rift between Howard and Fegan said Orlando’s decision to sign Jason Richardson ($25 million over four years) instead of Jamal Crawford (who got $10 million for two years from Portland) was influenced by the fact that Fegan is Richardson’s agent, and the Magic want to keep Fegan happy.
Fegan, one of the league’s most astute agents, also has a close relationship with Nets general manager Billy King. But many around the league are wondering if Fegan is as tight with King as he is with Cuban, and whether that might impact the recruiting process next summer when Howard can become a free agent.
A mid-season trade of Howard to the Lakers (for Andrew Bynum) could make all the Nets, Clippers and Mavericks possibilities moot, but the Magic are not as enamored of Bynum as many would be led to believe, and 85-year-old owner Rich DeVos might not sign off on a Bynum-Howard deal if he felt it hindered the chances of the Magic competing for a championship this season.
And ultimately, DeVos is the man who will make the final call on whether his franchise center goes anywhere this season or stays right where he is — in Orlando.
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